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American Resistance To Empire

Combative Saudi foreign policy stirs international ire

Saudi Arabia and Their “Toy Prince” Really Pissing-Off the World

[SEE: Saudis Want Global Gag On Criticism of Wahhabism (Counterfeit Islam)]

[SEE: Clinton Working To Implement “Universal Blasphemy Law” To Prevent Criticism of Wahabbi Islam ]

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has sought to tame critics with an aggressive foreign policy, but a deadly air raid in Yemen following an acrimonious spat with Canada will only amplify international pressure on the country, according to analysts.

An air strike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a bus in rebel-held northern Yemen on Thursday, killing over 20 schoolchildren, with the United States and United Nations both calling for an investigation.

The coalition insisted Houthi rebel combatants were aboard the bus, but international media have photographed dazed and bloodied children flooding into hospitals struggling to cope with a three-year conflict that the UN has dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“The war is becoming increasingly unpopular with the international community, including in the US Congress,” Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst in Washington, said.

“(This) attack has unfortunately become the norm and not the exception.”

The coalition has repeatedly been accused of striking civilians in Yemen since it launched an intervention in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels drove it out of the capital Sanaa.

The coalition called Thursday’s strike a “legitimate military action” in response to a rebel missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s southern Jizan city a day earlier that resulted in the death of a Yemeni national.

But that did not quell the outpouring of global condemnation.

“No excuses anymore!” tweeted Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s regional director in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Does the world really need more innocent children’s lives to stop the cruel war on children in Yemen?” Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, tweeted.

“Grotesque, shameful, indignant. Blatant disregard for rules of war when bus carrying innocent schoolchildren is fair game for attack.”

‘Shutting the door to criticism’

The bombing raid, part of an intervention that reflects Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, follows the country’s diplomatic rupture with Canada earlier this week.

Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, recalled its own envoy and froze all new trade and investments after Ottawa publicly demanded the “immediate release” of rights campaigners jailed in the country.

A furious Riyadh also moved to pull out thousands of Saudi students from Canadian universities, state airline Saudia suspended flights to Toronto, and Riyadh pledged to stop all medical treatment programmes in Canada.

The Saudi reaction could impinge on its efforts to attract badly needed foreign investment to fund its ambitious reform plan to pivot the economy away from oil, experts say.

The move illustrates how Saudi Arabia is unwilling to brook any criticism — foreign or domestic — under its young crown prince.

“The top leadership is not particularly concerned with Canada’s global influence,” said analysis firm Eurasia Group.

“Instead, it is interested in shutting the door to broader criticism, also from European countries, and on other issues in the future.”

But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to back down and asserted that his country will continue to speak out on human rights.

Saudi officials privately insist that respect for cultural sensitivities and closed-door diplomatic engagement is a more effective approach than public denunciations.

Growing discontent

Canada is quietly consulting Germany and Sweden — targets of previous Saudi backlashes for calling out the kingdom over human rights abuses — to help resolve the row, according to a government source.

Canada also plans to reach out to regional heavyweight the United Arab Emirates and to Britain, which has strong historical ties to Saudi Arabia. Canada has expressed disappointment that Western powers including the US — which has provided arms worth billions of dollars to the Saudi-led coalition — did not publicly support Ottawa.

“Absent a strong US voice (under President Donald Trump) on human rights and democratic values, Arab leaders have become less willing to tolerate Western advice on either political refo­rm or governance,” said the Eurasia Group.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018

Saudi Arabia and Their “Toy Prince” Really Pissing-Off the World

[SEE: Saudis Want Global Gag On Criticism of Wahhabism (Counterfeit Islam)]

The Guardian view on Saudi Arabia: time to back Canada

Riyadh’s thin-skinned response to Ottawa’s justified criticism is intended as a warning to others. Europe should take heed

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photograph: Abd Rabbo Ammar/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock 

It is famously hard to pick a fight with Canadians, but Saudi Arabia’s forceful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is not a man to be held back by what others think. That trait has led to both reforms (allowing women to drive) and a crackdown on those advocating them (arresting women who campaigned for the right). When Ottawa responded by calling for the immediate release of peaceful activists, including Samar Badawi, who has family in Canada, Riyadh lashed out at what it called reprehensible interference in its internal affairs. It expelled the Canadian ambassador, cancelled flights to Canada, froze new trade and investment, and is reportedly selling Canadian assets. Some measures – withdrawing students, and transferring home patients currently undergoing treatment – seem more damaging to those Saudi citizens than their hosts.

This absurd overreaction reflects the bullishness of the man who led the charge to war in Yemen and the blockade which has failed to bring Qatar to its knees as planned. But he has surely been emboldened by Donald Trump’s embrace, and the US president’s own attacks on Canada. It was little surprise when the state department said it would stay out of this row; more disappointing is the reticence of others. The UK has merely urged restraint on its two “close partners” and said it regularly raises rights concerns, including recent arrests.

Riyadh is sending a message to others, and while these measures are harsh, they are not entirely unprecedented: German businesses have reportedly paid for Berlin’s criticism of Riyadh’s role in Lebanese politics last year. It is in European countries’ own interests to stand together and tell the crown prince that such actions are not cost-free for Saudi Arabia. Like his anti-corruption coup, they are unlikely to reassure potential partners; and his mission to modernise the kingdom will require foreign support.

AP Blasts US Support To Pro al-Qaida Coalition In Yemen

ATAQ, Yemen (AP) — Again and again over the past two years, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has claimed it won decisive victories that drove al-Qaida militants from their strongholds across Yemen and shattered their ability to attack the West.

Here’s what the victors did not disclose: many of their conquests came without firing a shot.

That’s because the coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.

These compromises and alliances have allowed al-Qaida militants to survive to fight another day — and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes.

The black al-Qaida flag is sprayed on the wall of a damaged school in Taiz. (AP Photo)

The deals uncovered by the AP reflect the contradictory interests of the two wars being waged simultaneously in this southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

In one conflict, the U.S. is working with its Arab allies — particularly the United Arab Emirates — with the aim of eliminating the branch of extremists known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. But the larger mission is to win the civil war against the Houthis, Iranian-backed Shiite rebels. And in that fight, al-Qaida militants are effectively on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition — and, by extension, the United States.

“Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that,” said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. analysis group that tracks terrorism.

“However, supporting the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilizing Yemen,” Horton said.

The AP’s findings are based on reporting in Yemen and interviews with two dozen officials, including Yemeni security officers, militia commanders, tribal mediators and four members of al-Qaida’s branch. All but a few of those sources spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. Emirati-backed factions, like most armed groups in Yemen, have been accused of abducting or killing their critics.

Coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaida militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters, the AP found.

The coalition forces are comprised of a dizzying mix of militias, factions, tribal warlords and tribes with very local interests. And AQAP militants are intertwined with many of them.

Adnan Rouzek, center, stands with fighters in Taiz. (AP Photo)

One Yemeni commander who was put on the U.S. terrorism list for al-Qaida ties last year continues to receive money from the UAE to run his militia, his own aide told the AP. Another commander, recently granted $12 million for his fighting force by Yemen’s president, has a known al-Qaida figure as his closest aide.

In one case, a tribal mediator who brokered a deal between the Emiratis and al-Qaida even gave the extremists a farewell dinner.

Horton said much of the war on al-Qaida by the UAE and its allied militias is a “farce.”

“It is now almost impossible to untangle who is AQAP and who is not since so many deals and alliances have been made,” he said.

The U.S. has sent billions of dollars in weapons to the coalition to fight the Iran-backed Houthis. U.S. advisers also give the coalition intelligence used in targeting on-the-ground adversaries in Yemen, and American jets provide air-to-air refueling for coalition war planes. The U.S. does not fund the coalition, however, and there is no evidence that American money went to AQAP militants.

The U.S. is aware of an al-Qaida presence among the anti-Houthi ranks, a senior American official told reporters in Cairo earlier this year. Because coalition members back militias with hard-line Islamic commanders, “it’s very, very easy for al-Qaida to insinuate itself into the mix,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under the terms of the briefing.

More recently, the Pentagon vigorously denied any complicity with al-Qaida militants.

“Since the beginning of 2017, we have conducted more than 140 strikes to remove key AQAP leaders and disrupt its ability to use ungoverned spaces to recruit, train and plan operations against the U.S. and our partners across the region,” Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an email to the AP.

A senior Saudi official commented by saying that the Saudi-led coalition “continues its commitment to combat extremism and terrorism.”

An Emirati government spokesman did not reply to questions from the AP.

But on Monday, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that the UAE-backed counter-terrorism strategy is working. He said it had “removed” thousands of militants and deprived them of safe havens.

AQAP is “at its weakest since 2012,” he wrote, adding that the UAE and its allies “have all lost troops in the fight.”

The coalition began fighting in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overran the north, including the capital, Sanaa. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are determined to stop what they consider a move by their nemesis, Iran, to take over Yemen, and their professed aim is to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Al-Qaida is leveraging the chaos to its advantage.

“The United States is certainly in a bind in Yemen,” said Katherine Zimmerman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “It doesn’t make sense that the United States has identified al-Qaida as a threat, but that we have common interests inside of Yemen and that, in some places, it looks like we’re looking the other way.”

Within this complicated conflict, al-Qaida says its numbers — which U.S. officials have estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 members — are rising.

An al-Qaida commander who helps organize deployments told the AP that the front lines against the Houthis provide fertile ground to recruit new members.

The black al-Qaida flag and the slogan in Arabic “al-Qaida passed here,” on the right wall, are sprayed on a damaged school that was turned into a religious court in the southern city of Taiz.

“Meaning, if we send 20, we come back with 100,” he said.

The well-known commander communicated with AP via a secure messaging app on condition of anonymity because he had no authorization from the group to talk to the news media.

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The Associated Press reported this story with help from a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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A FAREWELL DINNER FOR AL-QAIDA

In February, Emirati troops and their Yemeni militia allies flashed victory signs to TV cameras as they declared the recapture of al-Said, a district of villages running through the mountainous province of Shabwa — an area al-Qaida had largely dominated for nearly three years.

It was painted as a crowning victory in a months-long offensive, Operation Swift Sword, that the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, had proclaimed would “disrupt the terrorist organization’s network and degrade its ability to conduct future attacks.”

The Pentagon, which assisted with a small number of troops, echoed that promise, saying the mission would weaken the group’s ability to use Yemen as a base.

But weeks before those forces’ entry, a string of pickup trucks mounted with machine guns and loaded with masked al-Qaida militants drove out of al-Said unmolested, according to a tribal mediator involved in the deal for their withdrawal.

The U.S. has killed al-Qaida’s top leaders in a drone strike campaign that accelerated in recent years. But in this victory — as in the others touted by the coalition — the mediator said armed U.S. drones were absent, despite the large, obvious convoy.

Under the terms of the deal, the coalition promised al-Qaida members it would pay them to leave, according to Awad al-Dahboul, the province’s security chief. His account was confirmed by the mediator and two Yemeni government officials.

Al-Dahboul said about 200 al-Qaida members received payments. He did not learn the exact amounts, but said he knew that 100,000 Saudi rials ($26,000) were paid to one al-Qaida commander — in the presence of Emiratis.

Under the accord, thousands of local tribal fighters were to be enlisted in the UAE-funded Shabwa Elite Force militia. For every 1,000 fighters, 50 to 70 would be al-Qaida members, the mediator and two officials said.

Saleh bin Farid al-Awlaqi, a pro-Emirati tribal leader who was the founder of one Elite Force branch, denied any agreements were made. He said he and others enticed young al-Qaida members in Shabwa to defect, which weakened the group, forcing it to withdraw on its own. He said about 150 fighters who defected were allowed into the Elite Force, but only after they underwent a “repentance” program.

A former al-Qaida commander, Harith al-Ezzi, walks through streets destroyed in fighting in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz. (AP Photo)

The clearing of al-Qaida from Shabwa and other provinces did not completely take place without fighting. Clashes erupted in some villages, usually with al-Qaida remnants that refused to play ball.

One former al-Qaida member told the AP that he and his comrades turned down an offer of money from the Emiratis. In response, he said, an Elite Force squad besieged them in the town of Hawta until they withdrew.

Overall, deals that took place during both the Obama and Trump administrations have secured al-Qaida militants’ withdrawal from multiple major towns and cities that the group seized in 2015, the AP found. The earliest pact, in the spring of 2016, allowed thousands of al-Qaida fighters to pull out of Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth-largest city and a major port on the Arabian Sea.

The militants were guaranteed a safe route out and allowed to keep weapons and cash looted from the city — up to $100 million by some estimates — according to five sources, including military, security and government officials.

“Coalition fighter jets and U.S. drones were idle,” said a senior tribal leader who saw the convoy leaving. “I was wondering why they didn’t strike them.”

A tribal sheikh shuttled between AQAP leaders in Mukalla and Emirati officials in Aden to seal the deal, according to a former senior Yemeni commander.

Coalition-backed forces moved in two days later, announcing that hundreds of militants were killed and hailing the capture as “part of joint international efforts to defeat the terrorist organizations in Yemen.”

No witnesses reported militants killed, however. “We woke up one day and al-Qaida had vanished without a fight,” a local journalist said, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Soon after, another accord was struck for AQAP to pull out of six towns in the province of Abyan, including its capital, Zinjibar, according to five tribal mediators involved in the negotiations.

Again, the central provision was that the coalition and U.S. drones cease all bombings as AQAP pulled out with its weapons, the mediators said.

The agreement also included a provision that 10,000 local tribesmen — including 250 al-Qaida militants — be incorporated into the Security Belt, the UAE-backed Yemeni force in the area, four Yemeni officials said.

For nearly a week in May 2016, the militants departed in trucks. One of the mediators told the AP that he threw the last of the departing fighters a farewell dinner among his olive and lemon orchards when they stopped at his farm to pay their respects.

Another mediator, Tarek al-Fadhli, a former jihadi once trained by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, said he was in touch with officials at the U.S. Embassy and in the Saudi-led coalition, keeping them updated on the withdrawal.

“When the last one left, we called the coalition to say they are gone,” he said.

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‘WE WILL UNITE WITH THE DEVIL’

To think of al-Qaida as an international terror group is to miss its other reality. For many Yemenis, it is simply another faction on the ground — a very effective one, well-armed and battle-hardened.

Its members are not shadowy strangers. Over the years, AQAP has woven itself into society by building ties with tribes, buying loyalties and marrying into major families.

Power players often see it as a useful tool.

Hadi’s predecessor as Yemen’s president, long-ruling strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, set the model. He took billions in U.S. aid to combat al-Qaida after the 9/11 attacks, even as he recruited its militants to fight his rivals. Hadi’s current vice president, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a military chief for decades, also has been accused of enlisting jihadis.

An explosion raises a cloud as coalition-backed fighters advance on the Red Sea port town of Mocha. (AP Photo)

In that light, it would almost be more startling if the militants were not involved against the Houthis, especially since al-Qaida militants are extremist Sunnis seeking the defeat of the Shiite rebels.

Al-Qaida militants are present on all major front lines fighting the rebels, Khaled Baterfi, a senior leader in the group, said in a previously unpublished 2015 interview with a local journalist obtained by the AP.

Last month, Baterfi said in a Q&A session distributed by al-Qaida that “those at the front lines for sure know of our participation, which is either actual fighting with our brothers in Yemen or supporting them with weapons.”

Al-Qaida has reduced attacks against Hadi’s and Emirati-linked forces because assailing them would benefit the Houthis, Baterfi said.

The branch is following guidance from al-Qaida’s worldwide leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, to focus on fighting the rebels, another top AQAP member said in written answers to the AP.

In some places, militants join battles independently. But in many cases, militia commanders from the ultraconservative Salafi sect and the Muslim Brotherhood bring them directly into their ranks, where they benefit from coalition funding, the AP found. The Brotherhood’s Yemen branch is a powerful hard-line Islamic political organization allied to Hadi.

Two of the four main coalition-backed commanders along the Red Sea coast are allies of al-Qaida, the al-Qaida member said. The coalition has made major advances on the coast, and is currently battling for the port of Hodeida.

Video footage shot by the AP in January 2017 showed a coalition-backed unit advancing on Mocha, part of an eventually successful campaign to recapture the Red Sea town.

Some of the unit’s fighters were openly al-Qaida, wearing Afghan-style garb and carrying weapons with the group’s logo. As they climbed behind machine guns in pick-up trucks, explosions from coalition airstrikes could be seen on the horizon.

An AQAP member interviewed in person by the AP in May viewed the video and confirmed the fighters belonged to his group. His affiliation is known from his past involvement in AQAP’s rule over a southern city.

The impact of the intertwining of al-Qaida fighters with the coalition campaign is clearest in Taiz, Yemen’s largest city and center of one of the war’s longest running battles.

In the central highlands, Taiz is Yemen’s cultural capital, a historic source of poets and writers and educated technocrats. In 2015, the Houthis laid siege to the city, occupying surrounding mountain ranges, sealing the entrances and shelling it mercilessly.

Taiz residents rose up to fight back, and coalition cash and weapons poured in — as did al-Qaida and Islamic State militants, all aimed at the same enemy.

One liberal activist took up arms alongside other men from his neighborhood to defend the city, and they found themselves fighting side by side with al-Qaida members.

“There is no filtering in the war. We are all together,” said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said commanders received weapons and other aid from the coalition and distributed it to all the fighters, including al-Qaida militants.

Abdel-Sattar al-Shamiri, a former adviser to Taiz’s governor, said he recognized al-Qaida’s presence from the start and told commanders not to recruit members.

“Their response was, ‘We will unite with the devil in the face of Houthis,’” al-Shamiri said.

He said he warned coalition officials, who were “upset” but took no action.

“Taiz is in danger,” al-Shamiri said. “We will get rid of the Houthis and we will be stuck with terrorist groups.”

Coalition-backed fighters help a wounded man during an advance on Yemen’s Red Sea port town of Mocha. (AP Photo)

The activist and officials in the city said one of the main recruiters of al-Qaida fighters is Adnan Rouzek, a Salafi member tapped by Hadi to be a top military commander.

Rouzek’s militia became notorious for kidnappings and street killings, with one online video showing its masked members shooting a kneeling, blindfolded man. Its videos feature al-Qaida-style anthems and banners.

Rouzek’s top aide was a senior al-Qaida figure who escaped from a prison in Aden in 2008 along with other AQAP detainees, according to a Yemeni security official. Multiple photos seen by the AP show Rouzek with known al-Qaida commanders in recent years.

In November, Hadi named Rouzek head of the Taiz Operations Rooms, coordinating the military campaign, and top commander of a new fighting force, the 5th Presidential Protection Battalion. Hadi’s Defense Ministry also gave Rouzek $12 million for a new offensive against the Houthis. The AP obtained copy of a receipt for the $12 million and a Rouzek aide confirmed the figure.

Rouzek denied any connection to militants, telling the AP that “there is no presence of al-Qaida” in Taiz.

Another coalition-backed warlord is on the U.S. list of designated terrorists due to his ties to al-Qaida.

The warlord, a Salafi known as Sheikh Aboul Abbas, has received millions of dollars from the coalition to distribute among anti-Houthi factions, according to his aide, Adel al-Ezzi. Despite being put on the U.S. list in October, the UAE continues to fund him, al-Ezzi told the AP.

The aide denied any links to militants and dismissed his boss’s designation on the U.S. terror list. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that “al-Qaida has fought on all the front lines alongside all factions.”

Right after the AP team spoke to him in Taiz, the team saw al-Ezzi meeting with a known senior al-Qaida figure, warmly hugging him outside the home of another former AQAP commander.

Aboul Abbas runs a coalition-funded militia controlling several districts in Taiz. A 2016 video produced by al-Qaida shows militants in black uniforms with al-Qaida’s logo fighting alongside other militias in districts known to be under his control.

A former security official in Taiz said militants and Aboul Abbas’ forces attacked security headquarters in 2017 and freed a number of al-Qaida suspects. The officer said he reported the attack to the coalition, only to learn soon after that it gave Aboul Abbas 40 more pick-up trucks.

“The more we warn, the more they are rewarded,” the officer said. “Al-Qaida leaders have armored vehicles given to them by the coalition while security commanders don’t have such vehicles.”

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Wilson contributed from Washington. Keath contributed from Beirut. AP correspondent Desmond Butler also contributed to this report.

Malaysia shuts down Saudi-backed anti-terrorism centre

Petrosaudi, The Next Embarrassment for Malaysia and Saudi Royals

Malaysia To Withdraw Troops Stationed In Saudi Arabia, Who Were NEVER Part of Grand Coalition

Malaysia shuts down Saudi-backed anti-terrorism centre

 

Mahathir’s reforms could put Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the spot

Newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Mahathir is adopting policies that could reshape the Southeast nation’s relations with powerful Gulf states.

A series of anti-corruption measures as well as statements by Mr. Mahathir and his defense minister, Mohamad (Mat) Sabu, since this month’s upset in elections that ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak from office, are sparking concern in both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Mahathir, who has cautioned in recent years against widespread anti-Shiite sectarianism in Malaysia, has questioned together with Mr. Sabu Malaysia’s counterterrorism cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Mahathir has also reinvigorated anti-corruption investigations of Mr. Razak,  whom Qatari media have described as “Saudi-backed.”

Mr. Razak is suspected of having syphoned off billions of dollars from state-owned strategic development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The fund as well as Saudi and UAE entities allegedly connected to the affair are under investigation in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

Apparently anticipating a possible change in relations, political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, whose views are often seen as reflecting UAE government thinking, disparaged Mr. Mahathir and the Malaysian vote days after the results were announced.

Mr. Abdullah focused on Mr. Mahathir’s age. At 92, Mr. Mahathir is the world’s oldest elected leader.

Mr Abdulla also harped on the fact that Mr. Mahathir had been Mr. Razak’s mentor before defecting to the opposition and forging an alliance with Anwar Ibrahim, Mr. Mahathir’s former deputy prime minister and an Islamist believed to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood, whom he helped put behind bars.

UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is known for his intense opposition to political Islam, including the Brotherhood.

“Malaysia seems to lack wise men, leaders, statesmen and youth to elect a 92-year-old who suddenly turned against his own party and his own allies and made a suspicious deal with his own political opponent whom he previously imprisoned after fabricating the most heinous of charges against him. This is politics as a curse and democracy as wrath,” Mr. Abdulla said on Twitter, two days after the election.

Similarly, Malaysian officials have signalled changing attitudes towards the Gulf. Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull, Mr. Mahathir’s newly appointed anti-corruption czar, who resigned from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in 2016 as a result of pressure to drop plans to indict Mr. Razak, noted that “we have had difficulties dealing with Arab countries (such as) Qatar, Saudi Arabia, (and the) UAE.”

Those difficulties are likely to recur.

Mr. Sabu, the new defense minister, noted in a commentary late last year that Saudi (and UAE) wrath was directed “oddly, (at) Turkey, Qatar, and Iran…three countries that have undertaken some modicum of political and economic reforms. Instead of encouraging all sides to work together, Saudi Arabia has gone on an offensive in Yemen, too. Therein the danger posed to Malaysia: if Malaysia is too close to Saudi Arabia, Putrajaya would be asked to choose a side.”

Putrajaya, a city south of Kuala Lumpur, is home to the prime minister’s residence and a bridge with four minaret-type piers that is inspired by Iranian architecture.

Mr. Sabu went on to say that “Malaysia should not be too close to a country whose internal politics are getting toxic… For the lack of a better word, Saudi Arabia is a cesspool of constant rivalry among the princes. By this token, it is also a vortex that could suck any country into its black hole if one is not careful. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is governed by hyper-orthodox Salafi or Wahhabi ideology, where Islam is taken in a literal form. Yet true Islam requires understanding Islam, not merely in its Quranic form, but Quranic spirit.”

Since coming to office, Mr. Sabu has said that he was reviewing plans for a Saudi-funded anti-terrorism centre, the King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP), which was allocated 16 hectares of land in Putrajaya by the Razak government. Mr. Sabu was echoing statements by Mr. Mahathir before the election.

The opening of the centre was twice postponed because Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cancelled his planned attendance. Malaysian officials said the kingdom had yet to contribute promised funds for the centre.

Shahriman Lockman, an analyst with the Kuala Lumpur-based Institute of Strategic and International Studies cautioned that Malaysia would have manoeuvre carefully.

“Whether we like it or not, whatever we think of them, Saudi Arabia is a major player in the Muslim world and in the Middle East. Their administration of the haj makes it crucial for Muslim-majority countries to get along with them,” Mr. Lockman said.

The fact that Mr. Mahathir’s election has sparked hopes that he will move Malaysia away from Mr. Razak’s embrace of Saudi-inspired ultra-conservative Islam as a political tool, despite the prime minister’s history of prejudice towards Jews and past anti-Shiite record, is likely to reinforce Saudi and UAE concern that his moves could favour Iran.

Mr. Mahathir has vacillated in his statements between banning Shiism to avert sectarianism and calling on Sunni Muslims in Malaysia to accept the country’s miniscule Shiite minority as a way of avoiding domestic strife.

What is likely to concern the Saudis most is the fact that Mr. Mahathir has said that  accepting Shiites as fellow Muslims was necessary because of the growth of the Iranian expatriate community in Malaysia. Analysts say the presence has sparked a greater awareness of Shiism and Sunni animosity because of Mr. Razak’s divisive policies.

Saudi and UAE worries about the reinvigorated anti-corruption investigation are rooted in the potential implication in the scandal of a Saudi commercial company, members of the Saudi ruling family, and UAE state-owned entities and officials.

The investigation is likely to revisit 1MDB relationship’s with Saudi energy company PetroSaudi International Ltd, owned by Saudi businessman Tarek Essam Ahmad Obaid as well as prominent members of the kingdom’s ruling family who allegedly funded Mr. Razak.

It will not have been lost on Saudi Arabia and the UAE that Mr. Mahathir met with former PetroSaudi executive and whistle blower Xavier Andre Justo less than two weeks after his election victory.

A three-part BBC documentary, The House of Saud: A Family at War, suggested that Mr. Razak had worked with Prince Turki bin Abdullah, the son of former Saudi King Abdullah, to syphon off funds from 1MDB.

UAE-owned, Swiss-based Falcon Bank has also been linked to the scandal while leaked emails documented a close relationship between Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s high-profile ambassador to the United States and confidante of Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and controversial Malaysian financier Jho Low, a 27-year-old Wharton graduate who helped Mr. Razak run 1MDB.

The Wall Street Journal, citing not only emails, but also US court and investigative documents, reported last year that companies connected to Mr. Otaiba had received $66 million from entities investigators say acted as conduits for money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

The UAE embassy in Washington declined to comment at the time but admitted that Mr. Oteiba had private business interests unrelated to his diplomatic role. The embassy charged that the leaked emails were part of an effort to tarnish his reputation.

Bank statements and financial documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal suggest that Khadem al Qubaisi, a director of an Abu Dhabi-owned investment company, who has also been implicated in the scandal, facilitated the purchase by UAE deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s brother of a $500 million yacht with 1MDB funds.Khadem al Qubaisi

“The impact of this election will reverberate far beyond Malaysia’s borders,” said Asia director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue Michael Vatikiotis.

Mr. Vatikiotis was looking primarily at the fallout of Mr. Mahathir’s victory in Southeast Asia and China. His analysis is however equally valid for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where it could also prove to be embarrassing.

 

Saudis Continue Reign of Video Terrorism…This Time the Threat Is Against Canada

https://youtu.be/gIqCPuto9gU

[Here is a previous Saudi-produced video portraying a shoot-down of a Qatari jet.]

Saudi Arabia appeared to threaten Canada with a 9/11-style attack in a feud over human rights

saudi arabia canada tweet
Saudi state-run media’s message to Canada.  @infographic_KSA

 

  • Saudi Arabia’s state media on Monday tweeted a graphic appearing to show an Air Canada airliner heading toward the Toronto skyline in a way that recalled the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
  • Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador after an official account called for the release of detained women’s rights activists in the kingdom.
  • Fifteen of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and Osama bin Laden, the attack’s mastermind, was a Saudi who has family there.
  • The Saudi media account deleted the tweet and reposted another without the airliner.

Saudi Arabia’s state media on Monday tweeted a graphic appearing to show an Air Canada airliner heading toward the Toronto skyline in a way that recalled the September 11, 2001, terrorist hijackings of airliners that struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

The graphic warned of “Sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong!” and included the text, “As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.'”

Last week, Global Affairs Canada tweeted that it was “gravely concerned” about a new wave of arrests in the kingdom targeting women’s rights activists and urged their immediate release

Saudi Arabian citizens comprised 15 of the 19 hijackers that crashed planes on September 11. The attacks’ organizer, Osama Bin Laden, came from a prominent Saudi family and still has family there including a son who the Bin Ladens say is looking to avenge his father.

Saudi Arabia has already expelled Canada’s ambassador and frozen all new trade and investment with Ottawa in response to the criticism.

The tweet came from @ Infographic_ksa , an account that had just hours before tweeted another infographic titled “Death to the dictator” featuring an image of the supreme leader of Iran, Saudi’s main regional rival.

Saudi Arabia has long stood accused of funding radical Muslim Imams around the world and spreading a violent ideology called Wahabbism. Under the new leadership of young ruler Mohammad Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has undertaken a number of sweeping reforms looking to reduce the funding for and spread of radical ideology as well as elevate human rights.

But a surge of arrests apparently targeting prominent women’s rights activists who previously campaigned to abolish the country’s driving ban against women has caused international alarm and prompted the tweet from Canada.

Saudi Arabia deleted the tweet featuring the plane and later reuploaded one without the airliner pictured.

Failed Drone Assassination Attempt On Venezuelan President Maduro, Blamed Upon Colombia and U.S.

A video shows the moment of the detonation of the drone a few meters from Caracas Avenue

This was the explosion of one of the drones during the military act of the dictator Nicolás Maduro

 

One day after the drone attack against Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro , a video was released of the moment one of the unmanned aircraft explodes.

The material, shared by RUNRUNES on its YouTube platform , shows the drone flying over Bolívar Avenue, in Caracas, during the military act for the 81st anniversary of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).

While listening to the speech of the Bolivarian leader, in a matter of seconds the unmanned plane explodes causing a loud roar.

After two detonations, the act was stopped, and officers of the military corps escorted the dictator and the Chavez leadership.

In another video you can see the reaction of some officers, who after the explosions ran.

This Sunday the Minister of Interior and Justice, Néstor Reverol, indicated that each of the drones carried a kilogram of explosive C4.

“The other drone lost control and fell into a building near Avenida Bolivar detonated on the first floor of the building. The investigations have shown that it is a crime of terrorism and assassination, “he said.

After what happened, Maduro said it was an assassination attempt and blamed the Venezuelan opposition and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos , who later repudiated those accusations.

Reverol, meanwhile, reported that six people were already arrested and did not rule out new apprehensions.

Source: INFOBAE

 

Two explosions attributed to drones interrupt Maduro’s speech

Attempt? The Venezuelan president accused the opposition of threatening his life. “They have tried to kill me,” he said hours after suspending his speech at a military rally . There would be seven soldiers wounded. Opponents to the regime still were not pronounced until the closing of this edition.

Caracas, Aug 4 The Minister of Information of Venezuela , Jorge Rodríguez, said that President Nicolás Maduro was the victim of an attack with “drone-type flying devices that contained an explosive charge”, and that he escaped unharmed from the incident, which occurred during an act with members of the military Caracas .

After the incident, President Nicolás Maduro addressed the Nation in a message in which he said that “God protects me” and feels strengthened to continue in the fight for “the revolution” and accused the opposition and the president of Colombia to attempt against his life.

YOU CAN SEE Maduro: Colombian Government Responds to President’s Accusations Against Santos

“This is an attempt to kill me, they have tried to assassinate me today (…), I have no doubt that the name of Juan Manuel Santos is after this attack,” said Maduro in an address broadcast on radio and television .

In a statement, the Colombian president rejected Maduro’s accusation, saying he does not have time to plan attacks.

Minister Rodríguez reported that several drones with explosive charges detonated in the vicinity of the stage where Maduro offered a speech on the occasion of the celebration of the 81 years of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), leaving as balance “some injuries” in seven military .

This “does not evidence but the desperation that we had already noticed in some spokesmen of the far right -opposition- Venezuelan, which shows only the hatred that we have permanently denounced those (…) who do not stop resorting to criminal practices “added Rodriguez.

GENERAL PANIC

The television broadcast showed the trained military break ranks and how they evacuated the Minister of Defense , Vladimir Padrino.

On the stage, along with Maduro , besides Padrino and the first lady, Cilia Flores , there were representatives of all the public powers of the country.

These events occur amidst the severe economic crisis in Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet, which translates into a shortage of all kinds of products, hyperinflation and a terrible provision of public services.

For these reasons, dozens of protests are taking place daily in the country, demanding food, transportation, water, electricity and better salaries, among other demands.

INTERRUPTION

“We are going to bet for the good of the country, the time for economic recovery has come, and I need …” were the words pronounced by the Venezuelan ruler, Nicolás Maduro, when he was interrupted by the explosion on Avenida Bolívar in Caracas .

During the confusing situation, all the officials, including the defense minister , Vladimir Padrino López, fled escorted by their bodyguards.

The incident was broadcast on radio and television . Before the images were cut, it was possible to hear how the president’s departure was coordinated.

The last thing that could be seen on television was the military running scared in search of protection before the detonations.

A source consulted by the Republic , said the act was intended to be a sample of the military power of Chavism to contain anti-government protests, but the goal was not achieved.

After removing the president from the area of ​​the alleged attack, the area was cordoned off and the few means that were found were removed.

In the local media VivoPlay his equipment was removed, so the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) reported the fact.

In social networks, the video of Maduro’s interrupted speech quickly became a trend and various versions began circulating, initially it was thought that it was an accident; However, the Venezuelan government later reported that it was an attack.

In Lima, the situation generated expectations because there are thousands of Venezuelans who have arrived in our country escaping the economic crisis that is experienced in the regime of Nicolás Maduro .

The analyst Diego Olivera said that the crisis is getting worse and now we are entering the investigation stage to see the origin of this drone that is for military use and was implemented with explosive charges .

It is not a family drone, but a military one, which shows that there is some Venezuelan paramilitary organization that would be behind the attack, said the analyst, who warned that this could lead to an escalation of violence in Venezuela.

He also said that one should be very careful with the reaction of the Venezuelan State and the groups that support Maduro, since the response could be violent.

BLAME TO ULTRADERATE

The government attributed the attack to the “extreme right”, as the opposition usually refers.

The president of the Constituent Assembly and number two of the Chavism, Diosdado Cabello , also turned against the opposition, deeply divided.

“The right insists on violence to take spaces that can not for the votes, our brother President Nicolás Maduro and the political and military high command left unharmed after the terrorist attack … They will not be able to do it with us,” Cabello wrote in Twitter

Evo Morales and Raúl Castro back him

– The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales , described as “crime against humanity” the attack, as it was called by the Government of Venezuela , suffered by its president, Nicolás Maduro, in Caracas.

– The president of Cuba , Miguel Diaz-Canel, and the ex-President Raul Castro condemned “energetically” the attack suffered, according to the confirmation of the Government of Venezuela, by his ally, the ruler Nicolás Maduro , to whom they reiterated the “unrestricted support” of the island.

Nicolás Maduro was about to finish his speech when a noise caught his attention and he looked up at the sky.

– “Tapa, tapa, tapa hasta …”, was heard on the part of one of the president’s bodyguards, who replied “let’s go to the right”. “Up, my commander,” a soldier told him in the midst of enormous tension.

What Happens When Facebook Controls the News

What Happens When Facebook Controls the News

By

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images 

In the face of criticism over its status as a conduit for harmful misinformation, Facebook has emphasized a commitment to “diverse” viewpoints. Everyone should be able to speak and be heard, and just as importantly for Facebook, be liked and shared. To that end, in countries without media environments as robust as the United States, Facebook has become a primary news source. That includes countries like Myanmar, where an ethnic-cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims is currently underway.

Facebook has already come under fire for taking down posts made by activists documenting the violence. The company is using small countries to test a new organizing method that removes publishers from the primary News Feed. Yesterday, the New York Times showed more examples of how an information ecosystem controlled by Facebook distorts reality.

The paper reports:

“Kalar [an epithet for the Rohingya] are not welcome here because they are violent and they multiply like crazy, with so many wives and children,” he said

Mr. Aye Swe admitted he had never met a Muslim before, adding, “I have to thank Facebook because it is giving me the true information in Myanmar.”

Social media messaging has driven much of the rage in Myanmar. Though widespread access to cellphones only started a few years ago, mobile penetration is now about 90 percent. For many people, Facebook is their only source of news, and they have little experience in sifting fake news from credible reporting.

The filter bubble is now a key factor in propaganda and genocide.